Seeking After God: Seven Topics to Pray About Daily

In today’s world it is more important than ever to be vigilant so that we are not deceived by Satan. We are living in a time where tensions are high, the news is becoming more and more disturbing, and uncertainty plagues the hearts of people both small and great. We know from reading Daniel and Revelation, and from Jesus’ prophecies in the Gospels, that things will only get worse before His return. However, this doesn’t mean we have been abandoned, or that God no longer cares. We do not need to fear, because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). This is the time to strengthen our faith in the One whose Salvation we are sure of! This is also the time to pray earnestly for our children, spouses, friends, and family. Especially as a mother and teacher, I believe warfare prayers are included in my responsibility to God and my children.

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On that note, I want to challenge and encourage you on the subject of prayer for our children and families. The following is a short list of seven topics that I pray about frequently. It changes from time to time, as some issues need more focus, but in general, these are the matters that weigh heaviest on my heart. It is my prayer that this will strengthen and embolden you this school year as you raise and educate your children in the fear of the Lord.

1. Prayers for God to reveal to me what I don’t know that I don’t know. In plain English, these are the areas where I am ignorant, that I am unknowingly blind about. This is an important one since it is my intense desire to know and understand God’s plan for me and my family. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Following closely in this topic are prayers for wisdom and discernment (Proverbs 2:6, Romans 12:2, Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:12-13).

2. Prayers for safety — physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally (Psalm 91). We are fighting a spiritual battle against an enemy that has no scruples, and will cunningly attack us in any way possible to shake our faith in God (Ephesians 6:12).

3. Prayers for strength of character: that we will be quick to forgive (Ephesians 4:31-32), slow to judge (Matthew 7:1-6, Luke 6:37), and graciously show love and mercy to others (Luke 6:35-36). This also includes praying for the character of Christ and the Gifts of the Spirit to be manifested in/through us (Matthew 5:16).

4. Prayers against generational sins and weakness/temptations that may be difficult to overcome. I pray that God reveals what needs changing in order to break the cycle (Exodus 20:5-6). It’s important to note that we often relate to God in the way that we relate/related to our earthly parents. Praying for healing from these types of issues in our family lines can often be beneficial to growing our relationship with God. These will be different for each family:
– Fear
– Anger/hate
– Abandonment/distrust
– Jealousy
– Sexual sin
– Dishonesty/Denial

5. Prayers for the future: jobs, homes, spouses, children. It is my deepest desire that my children delight themselves in the Lord, so that they too may partake of the blessing in Psalms 37:4-5 (Psalms 37:4-5, Matthew 7:11).

6. Prayers for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In order to effectively reach out to our family, friends, and community, we need the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). No matter what our age or where we go, when we give the Holy Spirit permission to work in us, much can be accomplished. There have been times where I have been amazed at the ministering God was giving me the ability to do, and then I realized it was all because of those prayers, begging God to fill me so that I could let His light shine out to others (Matthew 5:16, again, because it’s the result of this request).

7. Prayers for our will to match God’s will; for Q ualities such as compassion, and love for others, as well as for the truth; for understanding our life’s purpose, and trusting that He knows what’s best for us and our families, even if it doesn’t appear to be (Luke 22:42, Romans 8:28-39).

There are many, many more topics, and I could fill pages with Bible verses further referencing these thoughts, but hopefully this list has triggered some ideas. I’d like to close with a blessing from Deuteronomy 28:3-13, that is my prayer for you this year:

“Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.”

Lessons From Ethiopia

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My husband, three children, and I just returned from a two-week mission trip to the village of Shashemane in Ethiopia.

It was my hope that this would be a rich educational experience for my children. I had visions of us having great discussions about culture and geography, and experiencing “aha!” moments of gratitude. The thing is, I’m pretty sure I learned more from them than they did from me on this trip.

  • As I watch my son seamlessly fold into a group of non-English-speaking Ethiopian children for a game of soccer, I learn that the language barrier is not nearly as big as I thought.
  • As 3-year-old Fortu holds tightly to my daughter’s hand and follows her everywhere, I realize that a warm smile and loving touch are needed by children from every continent.
  • As our driver tries to make my youngest son laugh through the bus window, I notice that funny faces and laughter are the same in Ethiopia as they are in the United States.

It was I who experienced an “aha!” moment by witnessing how much we have in common, and how much love can be shared regardless of generational gaps, contrasts in skin tone, language barriers, and cultural idiosyncrasies. It is my hope that these lessons will be remembered deeply. And, even if we forget the capital of Ethiopia, if we will remember that love and friendship are possible wherever we are, it will have been the richest of educational experiences.

I Give You Permission (Steps to Banish the Guilt)

I Give You Permission

I give you permission to be still, to exalt in the silence, to close your eyes and rest whenever a peaceful moment presents itself. Housework can wait.

I give you permission to trust. To not let worries over-take your thoughts, and unseen events rob you of the peace in your heart.

I give you permission to relax, even though the dishes haven’t been done, and laundry is calling your name.

I give you permission to breathe deeply, laugh, and experience the joys of motherhood with all your heart.

I give you permission to love unconditionally, feel intensely, and cherish special moments with family and friends.

I give you permission to hope for the best in difficult situations.

I give you permission to cry in times of anger or despair, and pray you remember to cry out to the One who loves you, created you and knows your situation better than anyone else.

I give you permission to take care of yourself. To walk in the woods, read a book, eat healthfully, or take a bubble bath.

I give you permission to have bad days. And then, to let go of the anger and frustration, before it turns to bitterness and hate. We all have bad days, we all mess up. Praise God, there is forgiveness and a new day tomorrow!

I give you permission to let go–of grudges, guilt, and perfectionism; to allow God to speak His life-giving into your soul; to release the bitterness and toxicity, and embrace forgiveness.

I give you permission to wear your favorite dress, shoes, or jeans for no reason at all–other than that it makes you feel happy.

I give you permission to experience joy fully, to feel the rush that laughter brings

I give you permission to feel sadness, to mourn a loss, or change. Grief is not an enemy–guilt is.

I give you permission to take a break from homeschooling for the day (or week). Sometimes we need “mental health” days more than we need to learn multiplication, or History.

I give you permission to love yourself despite the flaws, shattered dreams, and baggage. Despite failed relationships, marriage, or abuse that haunts your past.

I give you permission to sleep peacefully, to know that tomorrow is in God’s hands. That there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God (Romans 8:38-39), and that so far, you have survived 100% of your roughest days.

I give you permission to have your own opinions and ideas. To differ from other moms on parenting, schooling, and eating styles. To know your children, and that what works for you all as a family, doesn’t have to work for anyone else.

I give you permission to have sick days. To lay on the couch and watch movies, cook a frozen pizza–and not feel guilty.

I give you permission to love your husband and intimately spend quality time with him. Remember the days when you were newlyweds? Yeah, so does he. He is attracted to you just as much now, maybe even more so, in spite of your stretchmarks or the weight you’ve gained.

I give you permission to be adventurous, to pursue your dreams, and use your God-given talents.

I give you permission to eat cake or pie for breakfast (with ice cream!) when the mood hits. Revel in every delicious, mouthwatering bite! It’s good to enjoy a treat without thinking of the calories or sugar content every now and then.

I give you permission to take care of your spiritual needs. To devote time to prayer and Bible study and getting to know the God of our universe more intimately. Remember the verse in Matthew 4:4 (or Deuteronomy 8:3) “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”? He is your Life-Giver, Jesus gave His life for you; It’s ok to worship!

I give you permission to be romantic. To enjoy sunsets, flowers, the smell of rain in the air, poetry, horseback rides, hot chocolate, love notes, warm summer days, and crisp fall evenings.

And finally,
I give you permission to know, in the deepest depths of your heart, that you are a  beloved child of the King. He has not forgotten, or given up on you. He is coming back, and He’s looking forward to spending eternity together. You are worth it.

Bible for Our Little Learners: More Than Just Another Subject

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I am someone who has always liked school. I was THAT kid. You know, the one who went home upset because I didn’t have any homework. I used to beg my mom (who was a teacher) to bring home old or unused workbooks so I could create my own homework. Yes, I realize that’s not normal, but I’ve always LOVED learning. That being said, all throughout grade school there was one subject I dreaded. It was…Bible class. Don’t get me wrong, I longed to know more about God’s word and his precious stories. I longed to understand Him more. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t an auditory learner, and most of the time Bible stories were simply read out loud in class. Maybe it was because coloring angels was fun but didn’t really teach me anything about the Bible. It could have been because the stories were so old I had a hard time following them or noticing their correlation to my own life. No matter the reason, I certainly felt like Bible was one of those subjects where you grit your teeth, get through, and are glad when you finally get it done.

As I examine Bible teaching for my own children, it probably goes without saying that I want more for them. Through my years working with children, I find that often Bible is regarded as important to parents, but it is presented in a way that is so far removed from reality that it’s difficult for young children to make the connection, for them to realize that these stories are true, that they are real, that they mean something for them personally, and that they teach us about the greatest friend we could ever ask for: Jesus.

Then one day it dawned on me: Bible isn’t just another subject. It must be the cornerstone of early childhood education!

The good news from an education perspective is that it’s one less subject to check off the list. The bad news is that we can’t just check it off the list. However, this too can be a blessing, as making Bible the cornerstone can transform your life in ways you never could have imagined.

So, if Bible isn’t a subject, what do we do? How does it work? I’m glad you asked. (OK, so I realize I actually asked, but we’ll just go with it.) The first and most important key is to study the Bible with your child. I don’t mean cracking open your Bible with your three-year-old and highlighting verses together. I mean studying deeply for yourself the things that you are reading and sharing with your little one. If you are studying the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert, read it for yourself during your own quiet time with the Lord. Pray through the passages. Ask God what He wants you to learn. The truth is that we cannot share with our children what we don’t have ourselves. If we aren’t growing in our own relationship with God and seeking to learn more of His word every day, how can we ask that of our children?

After you have made a priority of studying with your child, you have to figure out what to do with the time you are actually sharing and teaching your little one. For older children who can read and write, this will look very different than for a young learner with a short attention span. Yet, the same four principles I like to use with older kids and in my own Bible study work super well with our preschoolers through 2nd-grade students: Review, Study, Apply, and Memorize.

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Review

When I’m working with older kids, I use review as a way to make sure the story didn’t go in one ear and out the other. However, for younger kids it’s more about interacting with the story. So much of the Bible is brand new to them. Stories that you have heard a million times are fresh to their little minds. Helping them experience them in many ways is fascinating and exciting. Think about the way your children learn, and present the stories in their language. My boys are very visual and tactile. For us, felts are the way to go. They love seeing the story in vivid colors, and then they practice acting it out on their own with the felts. You can use story books, toy figures, charades, audio Bibles, videos, etc. There are so many resources available, chances are there is something out there that will help your child get excited about the story.

Study

Again, for an older child Bible study might consist of digging deeper into the passages, using cross references, pulling out a concordance, or using a highlighter. Obviously that’s not what we are talking about here. For little kids, studying has to do with understanding this world of the Bible that they’ve never encountered. One good thing about little kids is that they are full of questions. Feel free to entertain their questions, and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know the answer — you can even hunt it down together. (Hint: Keeping a Bible atlas with lots of pictures or a book with lots of pictures of Old and New Testament customs can be a huge help here as well.)

I have two boys, ages two and five. Recently we were studying the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. As we acted out the story with felts, they boys were loaded with questions. Why was Jesus hungry? Why was Satan mean? Wasn’t Satan being nice offering Jesus these things? As I left the felt board out and the boys visited it throughout the week, they left with a new question each time. Watching their wheels turn and giving them the space to work out hard questions is an important part of Bible study, and with little children it happens in a much more sporadic and natural way.

Apply

Application is where things get really fun for the little ones. Sometimes it can be hard, but this is also where spending your own time studying what you are teaching your kids produces much fruit. After telling the story of Jesus’ temptation for the first time, we talked about temptations we might have. Then, we practiced telling Satan to “GO AWAY” just like Jesus told Him to. This was also a great time for us to talk about how Jesus used scripture when he needed help, and we talked about times that knowing memory verses has helped us. My oldest has used passages to soothe him back to sleep many a time when he has had nightmares.

Keep in mind, these conversations didn’t happen all in one setting, but over the course of the week as the boys were interacting with the story more, and as I was learning things in my own time with God. In fact, there was one time during this particular week when I was really struggling with a grumpy attitude. Satan was tempting me to give in and let grumpiness take over, but I remembered Jesus’ temptations and I wanted to say “NO” with him.  I shared with my kids, at their level, what I was feeling, and I asked them to pray with me that Jesus would give me his strength to say “NO” to Satan just like He did. My kids were happy to pray with me, and they kept practicing saying no to temptation with me all day.

Application is going to look very different week to week, and there is no formula, but if You are seeking God, He will show you the most awesome ways that the scriptures are real for you AND your kids.

Memorize

The last piece of the puzzle is to memorize scripture. Young children are sponges and they memorize things easily. Playing scripture songs as I go about my day is all that’s needed for my two-year-old to be belting out, “Do to others, do to others, what you would have them do to yoouuuuuu!!” And, this is important and so precious to treasure, yet it is easy for us to get excited about the memorization alone without any meaning. As you learn a verse together with your child (for our family, we find reciting it together at mealtimes is a big help), help them understand what it means and why it’s important to learn.

Our verse for studying about the temptation was Matthew 4:10, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” You can see from my example above that this is something we put into practice many a time. We also talked about how God’s Word is powerful, and just like Jesus, we can use it in times of trouble. The week following that one, we were learning about Jesus calling his disciples and performing his first miracle at the wedding feast. Our verse was, “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” We talked about Jesus calling us to be His disciples, and that part of being a disciple is doing the very thing Jesus’ mother told the servants to do — whatever Jesus tells us. Every time we review the verse we talk a little bit more about what it means, and this gives us an opportunity to expand our application.

With this method of Bible study, you don’t have to have a fancy Bible curriculum or lots of tools, but studying the Bible can be overwhelming, and it’s hard to know where to start sometimes. If you are looking for a guide or Bible storybook or anything to help bring the Bible alive for your little learner, the Bible curriculum resources on SDA Homeschool Families might be a good place to start.

A caution about crafts and “busy work”

Before I wrap up I want to share one caution or something to consider when it comes to teaching Bible to early learners. Children need hooks. It’s easy to read Bible stories and color a picture or make a fun craft, and those things aren’t bad, but don’t let them be busy work. If you are coloring Bible pictures, put them together in a book with a three-ring binder. Let them be your child’s own Bible Storybook. Talk about the picture, maybe even write your memory verse on the page to help you remember. If you make a fun craft project, hang it where you can see and talk about how it relates to the story and what truth it can remind you of. Let these mementos be hooks and ways to help our children relate to the wonderful messages of the Bible in more real and broad ways.

So what do you think? Do you want to make the change? What do you think about seeing Bible as more than another subject for your littlest learners?

Saying “Yes!”

Royalty-free 3d computer generated business clipart picture of a white person holding his arms out with a green check mark and a red x in his hands, symbolizing approval and denial.

While it is a common challenge for courageous homeschooling mamas everywhere to bravely utter that illusive two-lettered word, “NO,” I must confess that it is its counterpart, “YES,” that has been my nemesis. Oh, I can get just as busy and overwhelmed as the next mama, with laundry, and swimming lessons, and making dinner. But, when it comes to saying yes to things that take me out of my comfort zone, you can count me out — things like learning how to lead; or that require commitment, like signing up to teach at church or co-op; or investing in relationships with people like that new mama at church from the Congo who doesn’t speak any English; or taking a risk like putting my thoughts into writing for the whole world to read and, dare I say, judge.

You see, I’m a dreamer. I’m always coming up with big ideas, and then promptly backing out because I don’t want to overdo, or disturb my inner peace and tranquility. But, to be honest, I think I’ve just been scared. Of what? Could be a multitude of things, I suppose. The reason behind my fear isn’t really the important thing here. What I believe is of utmost importance is that when I choose to wholeheartedly say “yes” to God when He offers me a chance to step out in faith, I get to bear witness to miracles!

In Matthew 14:29-31 we read, “‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

At first glance, it seems the miracle is that Peter walked on the water. But, Jesus’ response seems to indicate that was not the ultimate goal. Yes, Peter did walk on water, if only for a few yards, but Jesus isn’t high-fiving him for the awesome stunt they just pulled off. Verses 32-33 go on to say this: “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Because Peter was willing to step out in faith to obey Jesus’ call, a group of weary fishermen bore witness to the glory and power of God in their midst. That’s what I call a miracle!

So when I face opportunities to say “yes,” I have no reason to fear. God is faithful. He can reach out and catch me if I mess up and start sinking. In fact, none of it, really, is about me anyway. It’s about God’s glory being made known to all heaven and earth, and I definitely want to say “yes” to that. Don’t you?